It is not always great wealth, but a passion to see something important preserved for future generations that transforms individuals into benefactors. This passion led Walter and Estelle Brahm to make a very special gift to Case Western Reserve University.
Walter was studying library science at Adelbert College and working two jobs. Estelle was a librarian at his place of employment. They began a romance that has lasted seven decades, and they have shared a passion for libraries.
In the midst of the Depression, Walter Brahm came to Adelbert College with the assistance of a scholarship. "That meant so much to him," says Estelle, "that he sincerely wanted to give something back." The charitable remainder unitrust they established in 1996 will one day become an endowment fund that will provide discretionary support for the Kelvin Smith Library.
Walter translated his ideas into significant achievements. "My interest was in organizing library materials," he said. He wanted to assure that people could go to the library with enthusiasm and confidence that they would find the items they sought. At Case Western Reserve University he established a government documents' classification scheme that is still in use today. As the longest-tenured state librarian in Ohio's history, Walter championed the needs of public libraries in a politically-charged and financially challenged climate for twenty-seven years.
In 1959, after organizing the first bookmobile for rural areas of Ohio, Walter received the Ohio Librarian of the Year Award for this accomplishment. In 1963, he founded the Ohio Library Foundation as a community fund organization to assist Ohio libraries. He was elected to the Ohio Library Hall of Fame in 1978. His prescription for leadership was: "perception" the ability to anticipate a problem; "persistence"—the desire to keep trying; and "the Good Samaritan Rule" the desire to help someone.
Walter Brahm passed away on March 22, 2002, but his passion for libraries lives on through his achievements as an active and innovative leader, and through the endowment fund that he and his wife have provided to the Kelvin Smith Library.
Editor's Note: Subsequent to the publication of this article, Mrs. Brahm passed away on September 6, 2005. In their trust, the Brahms provided for an additional five-year certain payout to their daughter. The University is grateful to their daughter, Mrs. Carolyn B. Owens that she has elected to use her trust distributions to establish the Brahm's endowment fund early.